7th and 8th Grades: Balancing Community and Individual Identity

Gesher Class

Seventh and 8th grades are when teens further develop their individual Jewish identity by applying their values and beliefs to contemporary local and global issues. Classes meet weekly and the evening begins with a communal dinner. 

The seventh grade year is divided into trimesters. During the first part of the year, students learn about the complexity of urban poverty, and the various ways to respond, such as direct service, advocacy, and community organizing. Speakers and fieldtrips provide opportunities to learn and to act. 

In the winter months, students explore one of two topics: entertainment and media stereotypes, or environmentalism. The third part of the year is devoted to Holocaust studies and contemporary genocide. This unit includes a musuem fieldtrip, guest speakers, and media presentations. In each unit, the emphasis is on the students' responses and responsibilities to these real world issues as Jewish adults.

Eight graders use curriculum developed by Jewish Lens and successfully launched at JRC in 2010. Over the course of the year, students use photography to capture their unique perspective on a particular student-determined theme, often integrating traditional texts and personalized midrash (commentary). The culmination of the program is an congregation-wide in mid-May. JRC member, photojournalist and artistic mentor Richard Cahan work with students intensively to develop their skills in taking and interpreting photographs. 

For more information, contact Religious School Director Terri Ginsberg Bernsohn at tbernsohn@jrc-evanston.org.

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